This weekend I had the chance to check out the documentary Washoku at Cinema Village, where it will be playing through the end of the month. It features interviews with sushi chefs and other Japanese food proprietors, and asks them about their philosophy, preparation and overall view of Japanese food. Many of them in talk in detail about the sacrifices they make for their craft, and how much pride they have in their work. This film is truly a must see for all washoku lovers.
One of the tidbits I found interesting was the discussion of “umami,” or the fifth taste. In one part, they were talking about the “aku” or scum that appears on the top of soup when it is cooked, and how this is traditionally removed in Japan. However, in France and other culinary cultures it is saved for its flavor. They did a blind comparison taste test with Japanese customers, and the result was that the soup tasted better when the aku had been left in. Nevertheless, Japanese chefs remained steadfast about taking it out for the purpose of creating pure umami. I thought it was amazing that the chefs’ devotion to this principle was so strong that it would override customers’ feedback that it tasted better the other way.
Tomorrow I’m heading to Japan for a two-week trip, and I’m really looking forward to getting my fill of washoku during that time!